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Agri-Food Innovations Awarded in Jerseyville, City of Hamilton

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Agri-Food Innovations Awarded in Jerseyville, City of Hamilton

The Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence recognizes the success of rural communities, farms and food processing sectors and agri-food organizations in Ontario. Their innovations improve existing products, create jobs and grow the economy. 

The program recognizes 50 regional awards, including a Premier's Award, Minister's Award, and three Leaders in Innovation.

The following are regional award recipients of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence from Haldimand County, Hamilton, Niagara Region, Norfolk County, and Oxford County.  

Arlington Farms -- Jarvis, Haldimand County

When more and more of Mike Lishman's neighbours got out of the livestock business, he faced a problem... how to fertilize his cash crops without a nearby source of manure.  The solution he discovered, was found in cities.  Lishman turned to the green bin waste that urbanites put out at the curb side each week.  As his extensive trials proved, using the composted organic material produces healthy plants, increases crop yield, improves soil quality and enhances moisture retention.  An OMAF and MRA nutrient management specialist helped him determine the optimal application rate.  Today, Lishman uses virtually no commercial fertilizers relying almost entirely on the composted organic waste to supply the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and various micronutrients he needs.  For farmers like him, green bin waste is pure gold.

RentThisLand.com -- Hagersville, Haldimand County

Meet Louise. She wants to expand her beet operation but she can't afford to buy new land. Now meet John. He's getting on in years and wants to downsize by renting out some of his farm.  Connecting people like John and Louise is the raison d'être of RentThisLand.com.  Launched in February 2013, the Canada-wide site provides a simple, effective matchmaking service for landowners and farm operators. Would-be renters can browse property listings for free and refine their search based on location, size and even criteria like soil type, drainage and environmental history. Meanwhile, basic listings are also free for landowners. For each successful match, the website operators collect a fee from the renter. With RentThisLand.com, it's never been easier to find your match.

Baba Link Organic Farm -- City of Hamilton

Apples and pears aren't the only things growing in Patricia Kozowyk's orchard.  Look underneath the trees and you'll discover raspberries, roses, violets, currants and a variety of herbs.  As well as selling fruit, Kozowyk does a brisk business in violet jelly, rose petal jam, edible petals for salads and garnishes, and more.  The mix of crops ensures she always has something to harvest.  Last year, for example, when an early spring followed by heavy frost wiped out her apple crop, her flowers, berries and herbs brought in vital income.  Kozowyk also grows clover and grasses between her trees to attract bees and other beneficial insects and cut down on the need for irrigation.  For this organic grower, diversity is the key to success.

Reif Naturals by Reif Estate Winery -- Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Region

Thanks to Klaus Reif, locavores can now add Ontario raisins to their grocery list. In 2009, Reif retrofitted two tobacco kilns to dry food products and bought a tonne of excess Sovereign Coronation grapes that didn't pass wineries' stringent quality standards. The resulting raisins garnered positive reviews from food magazines and chefs happy to have another local option to offer diners. The new use for the grape variety gives growers another market for their product and reduces the amount of wasted fruit each year.  And since raisin production occurs before wine production, seasonal workers can be employed for a longer period. Reif has steadily increased production to seven tonnes of grapes in 2012. The company is now offering chocolate-covered versions.

The Foreign Affair Winery -- Vineland, Niagara Region

As a Canadian living in Italy, Len Crispino fell in love with the appassimento wines that are a specialty of northern Italy, made by drying the grapes before pressing them.  He and his wife, Marisa, turned that passion into The Foreign Affair Winery.  Despite differences in soil, growing seasons and grape varieties, after many years of experimenting, they have successfully applied appassimento techniques to Ontario grown grapes on their 40-acre Niagara vineyard. To overcome the challenge of mould, they re-engineered air flow in the vineyard and production process. Today The Foreign Affair Winery produces 14 different wines.  Here's to the fruits of passion and perseverance!  The Crispinos also received the Minister's Award for their innovation.

Bryan and Cathy Gilvesy / Y U Ranch -- Tillsonburg, Norfolk County

When Y U Ranch delivers its grass-fed beef to hungry customers, it's making North American history. That's because the customized delivery van is the first hybrid gas/electric refrigerated minivan on the continent. Y U's owners, Bryan and Cathy Gilvesy, call it the "Farmers' Market Express." Small enough that anyone with an ordinary class G licence can drive it, the van is easy to manoeuvre in crowded urban settings. At just eight litres per hundred kilometres, its fuel efficiency exceeds every other model on the market. Not only that, the electric-powered cooler and freezer units can run when the engine is switched off, eliminating the need to idle. The Farmers' Market Express puts refrigerated delivery within affordable reach for small producers. Bryan and Cathy Gilvesy also received a Leader in Innovation award.  

J&S Judge Farms Ltd. -- Simcoe, Norfolk County

A few years back, heat waves and drought spelled crop failure for field corn at J&S Judge Farms.  Not these days.  The livestock and cash crop producer went to the root of the problem, installing subsurface drip irrigation on 75 acres of sand plain fields. By limiting moisture stress, the wirelessly controlled irrigation system will increase productivity, improve crop quality and put underutilized land to good use. At the same time, it will conserve water. Compare the numbers: the same volume of water required to supply 50 acres via overhead irrigation can supply 200 acres via subsurface drip irrigation. Now in the early stages of commercialization, the system holds plenty of promise for tobacco, orchard and vegetable operations.

Purple Daze Lavender -- St. Williams, Norfolk County

It typically takes three people four hours to harvest an acre of lavender, plus another hour to rack and dry the flowers. Not, however, at Purple Daze. Owner Robert Koprich has developed a harvesting machine that can do it all in just 30 minutes. Koprich spent many years developing and refining the machine, which hooks up to the kind of small tractor that many growers own. Not only does the machine reduce hand labour, saving roughly $20,000 a year, it makes it easy to keep on top of the crop during peak flowering times. Once Koprich secures a patent for his harvester, he plans to sell it to growers across the country.

The Blue Elephant Craft Brew House -- Simcoe, Norfolk County

Barley, hops, wheat ...and sweet potatoes? It may not be your typical beer recipe, but then again, Heather Pond-Manorome isn't your typical brewmaster. The Blue Elephant Craft Brew House serves up additive-free beer made from local, in-season ingredients and is brewed in small batches for maximum quality. Pop in for a pint in October and enjoy their Sweet 'P' autumn ale made from locally grown pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Or quench your thirst in the summer with their Harmony Hive Honey Ale and support local beekeepers while you're at it. With sales booming and more and more restaurants lining up to carry the seasonal suds, Pond-Manorome plans on expanding the microbrewery in 2013 and adding a retail store to the operations.

Auvergne Farms Ltd dba Jakeman's Maple Products -- Beachville, Oxford County

Around the world, more and more winemakers are choosing to box their wine rather than bottle it.  Now, Robert and Mary Jakeman and their family are using the same cost-effective, easy-to-store, bag-in-box packaging for maple syrup. For these producers, the heavy-duty bag encased in cardboard makes all kinds of sense.  Its low weight keeps shipping costs down.  There's no risk of breakage, unlike glass bottles. The packaging is fully recyclable. Most importantly, because the plastic spout prevents air from getting in, the syrup stays fresher longer, even after the package has been opened. No dried-out syrup and no crystals forming at the bottom. The innovative packaging has opened up a new market for the Jakemans in Australia and created the potential for more export markets in years to come.

Sedum Master Inc.--Princeton, Oxford County

Business is looking up for Sedum Master--quite literally. For the past eight years, the family-run company has specialized in creating green roof systems made up of flexible, lightweight mats covered in hardy sedum plants. The benefits go beyond attractive rooftops. Installing a green roof or wall also reduces energy loss in the winter and summer, provides sound insulation, reduces stormwater runoff and improves air quality. Sedum Master also offers green walls, creating space to grow everything from strawberries to eggplant year-round. Demand is booming. The City of Toronto, for example, now encourages green roofs on any building over 2,000 square metres. That means more jobs for cutting-edge companies like Sedum Master and a healthier environment for everyone.

Superior Mat & Comfort Inc.--Salford, Oxford County

For dairy farmers across the province, protecting their feed from the elements just got a little easier.  Goodbye cumbersome plastic sheets and old car tires. Superior Mat & Comfort has developed a fully automated, reusable vinyl cover that can be rolled and unrolled over feed bunkers with the click of a hand-held remote. The hydraulically driven, self-winding Sysilco system can be mounted either on a wall or on the ground. Liquid-filled lines that run along the cover ensure it hugs the feed closely and creates a tight seal at the edges. Once it's in place, the heavy-duty cover protects feed from sun, rain, oxygen and pests.  Not only does that eliminate dry matter loss, it also prevents run-off and greenhouse gas emissions.

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